No doubt you’ve heard the buzz about these egg-shaped wonders that can grill, sea, and smoke—and even make pound cake and pizza. Kamado is derived from the word for an old-style Japanese cooking vessel, and today’s grills are known for exceptional insulation and heat retention. Unlike regular grills, kamados can maintain an even temperature for a long period of time and get as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit, fueled with hardwood lump charcoal—which is ideal—or charcoal briquettes. Whether you’re a kamado novice or ready to take the plunge and buy the grill of your dreams, here’s a roundup of the best models on the market.
What to Consider
True kamado grills have a thick ceramic shell and offer superior heat retention, but they can crack and generally cost more than kamado-style grills, which aren’t ceramic. Kamado grills are also much heavier, though many are set on carts with castors. Both typically have tiered grates for two-zone cooking, which allows you to prepare different food at different temperatures—a handy feature if you want to smoke and grill at the same time. Some models also offer multi-level racks for more cooking space. Another important consideration is how ash is emptied. Slide-out ash drawers at the bottom are preferable; otherwise, you need to remove the grates and scoop it out.
How We Selected
Our selection includes top-rated, well-reviewed kamado and kamado-style grills in a range of sizes. Quality of materials used for the body, base, and hardware were our top consideration, along with value-added features. We also chose kamados that span price points, from a $149 portable model all the way up to a splurge-worthy $1,899 grill.
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Kamado Joe Classic II 18-Inch Grill
Kamado Joe is a well-regarded brand that’s become a frontrunner in the world of kamados. All of their ceramic grills are fire engine red and the full-sized models have a versatile cooking system, with racks that can be used in multiple configurations, including a two-zone setup.
The Classic II is the most popular grill in their lineup, featuring an air-lift hinge top with a vent that’s water- and mold-resistant, a fiberglass mesh steel gasket, and a slide-out ash drawer. There’s also a multipanel firebox designed to prevent breaks and cracks. It’s set on a cast-iron cart with locking wheels and comes with a grill gripper and ash tool.
Big Green Egg Large Kamado Grill
The Big Green Egg is responsible for kicking off the kamado craze in the US back in the 1970s. The Large is the most coveted of the seven models, capable of holding a 20-pound turkey or six upright chickens. It has 1-inch-thick walls and a heat-proof gasket, but features are slim in comparison to next-gen kamados. There’s no ash drawer or removable bin, so cleaning it out requires removing the grill grates and an inner ceramic ring. Still, it performs superbly and if you’re the kind of person who always opts for the original, it will not disappoint.
The Value Pick
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Grill
This kamado-style grill has porcelain-coated steel on the inside rather than ceramic, but it works almost as well as a kamado — for a fraction of the price. The double-wall construction offers good heat retention, and there are 447 square inches of cooking space on the dual-level cast-iron grates. It’s made from 22-gauge steel with a power-coated finish, with two folding black metal shelves, a hinged lid and an ash pan, set on a steel cart with locking front casters. Not a bad package.
A Step Up
Kamado Joe Classic 18-Inch Grill
The Classic I is Kamado Joe’s entry-level grill, which looks sharp and offers all the brand’s basic features at a reasonable price. It has the same innovative cooking system found in more expensive models, with half-moon stainless steel grates and heat blockers that can be arranged to cook meat at different temperatures. The cast-iron top vent allows you to adjust the airflow to control the temperature, and there’s a felt gasket that prevents heat from escaping. Like other models it has a multi-panel fire box, side shelves, and a cast-iron cart with locking wheels, plus a slide-out drawer for ashes.
Char-Griller Akorn Jr. Kamado Grill
This kamado-style grill is a mini version of the full-size Char-Griller model featured above with an attractive price tag. At less than 40 pounds, it’s relatively lightweight and perfect for camping or backyard barbecuing if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space and need to store it.
The grill’s construction is solid despite its weight, with the same triple-wall steel construction, porcelain-coated interior, and powder-coated steel finish as the larger model. It has cast-iron grates that give you 153 square inches of cooking space, top and bottom air dampers for temperature control, plus a hinged lid, side handles, and ash-dump pan that’s easy to empty.
Perfect for Small Groups
Kamado Joe Jr. 13.5-Inch Grill
The Kamado Joe Jr. is one of the brand’s portable models, though at 70 pounds we wouldn’t exactly call it lightweight. But if you want a small kamado with many of the same features as their larger grills, it won’t disappoint. It’s ideal for cooking up meals to serve two to four people, and its cast-iron stand makes it safe to set on a wood deck or tabletop. The grill has 148 square inches of grill space on its stainless steel grates, a felt gasket to trap the heat, and a cast-iron vent to control the temperature. There’s no ash pan like in Kamado’s full-size grill, but cleaning it out isn’t too much of a hassle because of its size.
Pit Boss Ceramic Kamado Grill
This kamado grill offers a generous amount of space and rivals other brands in its price range for desirable features. The grill’s ceramic body has 560 square inches of space, with dual-tier stainless steel cooking grates, a spring loaded hinge top, and laminated bamboo fold-down side shelves. There’s also a cast-iron damper on top that’s easy to adjust and it’s set on a base with wheeled casters, two of which lock. The only drawback is that you have to remove the grates to clean the ash pan through the bottom damper using a steel brush, which is included.
Great For Big Cookouts
Vision Ceramic Kamado Grill
There’s a lot to like about this ceramic kamado grill, with an attractive design and an excellent lineup of features. For starters, the front panel has two dials to separately control temperatures for grilling and smoking, like you would on a range top. The dual-level stainless steel grates are hinged which makes setting up two-zone cooking a snap, plus there’s a port for an electric starter near the pull-out ash drawer. There’s a cast-iron vent on top, two fold-down wood shelves on each side, and the powder-coated stand has two locking castors, plus the grill comes with a vinyl protective cover. Overall, it’s an impressive package competitively priced at under $1,000
Char-Broil Kamander Kamado Grill
This kamado-style grill is a standout for clever features across the board. Among its highlights is its airflow system, which improves upon typical kamado grill design. The intake vent is within easy reach on the right side rather than on the bottom, so you don’t have to bend down to make adjustments.
A section of the cast-iron grate is removable for replenishing charcoal while grilling, plus there’s a chrome swing-out grate attachment that adds a raised cooking surface. The grill has a double-walled steel construction, with removable ash and drip pans, a fold-down side shelf, and a bottom shelf for storage.
Kamado Joe Big Joe II 24-Inch Grill
If you’re a Kamado Joe fan and want to upgrade, consider the Big Joe II. It has 604 square inches of cooking space with the included grill expander, plus the brand’s standard package of fantastic features. Expect two-tier stainless steel grates, an air lift hinge top, and a wire mesh fiberglass gasket, along with a six-panel firebox designed to prevent cracks, a slide-out ash drawer, and folding side shelves. Heads-up that this grill’s price tag isn’t the only thing that’s hefty: it weighs nearly 375 pounds.
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